EU Commission's winter package gets lukewarm response

Campaigners and industry representatives have given a mixed response to the European Commission's long-awaited winter package proposals for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Campaigners and industry representatives have given a mixed response to the Commission's winter package | Photo credit: Fotolia

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

02 Dec 2016

The 1,000-page so-called 'jumbo' package contains no less than eight different legislative proposals, including revisions of two EU energy directives.

With the main aim being to overhaul the EU energy market, the package has been described as "one of the most significant legislative proposals in years."

Elements of the strategy recognise the role of increased efficiency and renewable energy in creating jobs, cutting energy use and tackling climate change.


The package specifically includes a binding energy efficiency target of 30 per cent by 2030 and a focus on what is called "community-owned and managed" renewable energy.

Campaigners say that if "community energy" - the right to store and sell energy - is allowed to fulfil its potential, over half of European citizens could be producing their own renewable energy by 2050.

The new strategy sets out common rules for "better integrating" the EU's disparate energy markets in order to combine the growing share of renewables into the power mix, as well as empower consumers and increase energy efficiency.

It also contains limits for standby power "capacity mechanisms" and there are plans for more biofuels in transport fuels from 2021.

The winter package, which aims to complete the EU's so- called energy union, will now go to Parliament and Council for final approval, a process that could take up to two years.

One of the first MEPs to react, the EPP group's Krisjanis Kariņs, "In Europe, we have high energy prices which hurt our businesses and competitiveness. 

"Removing existing barriers and market distortions in the electricity market to increase competition will get the best deal for our consumers."

Kariņs supports "important" new proposals on energy market design - notably the directive on electricity - included in the package.

"Europe needs jobs and growth. For the industry to invest and create new jobs, it needs certainty. Therefore we need clear rules and vision on how the energy market will look in the future", he said.

Another EPP group deputy, Peter Liese, welcomed the Commission's priority on energy efficiency, saying, "Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

"The increased target of 30 per cent will help us achieve our commitments under the Paris agreement. Moreover, energy efficiency initiatives will create a lot of jobs.

"I welcome the balanced approach on ecodesign. It is fully in line with EPP priorities."

Reacting to the news on Wednesday, campaigners immediately called on MEPs and member states to strengthen the package.

This is necessary, they said, "if Europe is serious about tackling climate change and making European climate policy work for people."

Friends of the Earth Europe, in a statement, said the package "fails to tackle the over-supply of energy or address the urgent need to cut fossil fuel extraction and consumption."

The group said the package was "insufficient and out of step with the Paris agreement."

Molly Walsh, community power campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said, "Seeing citizens placed at the heart of the energy transition is a beacon of hope among an otherwise gloomy, fossil-fuel-heavy package. 

"The Commission has recognised the benefits of community-owned renewables and cooperatives, but is failing to kick its fossil fuel addiction, at the expense of the climate, and the Paris agreement."

Her colleague, Brook Riley, the group's climate and energy campaigner, said: "The Commission's decision to increase the 2030 energy efficiency target will lift millions of people out of energy poverty, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs - but why stop at 30 per cent? 

"It's disappointing that the Commission is so clear on the benefits of efficiency yet fails to come forward with proposals that meet its full potential."

The group was among those who wanted the target to be increased to 40 per cent.

Further criticism of the Commission came from Roland Joebstl, climate and energy policy officer with the European Environmental Bureau, who said, "By proposing a mere 27 per cent goal for renewables by 2030, the Commission is proposing to slash their roll out by half the current rate in the next decade, at a time when the rest of the world is picking up speed. 

"Worse still, no effective measures are proposed to ensure that the bio-energy part of the energy mix is sustainable."

However, the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation said it "warmly welcomes the unprecedented focus" on renewable heating in the renewable energy directive which, it says, will boost deployment of renewable heating technologies such as solar thermal. 

The Federation added, "To be effective enough, this obligation scheme on heat suppliers must be carefully implemented by member states so that it really promotes renewable heating technologies such as solar thermal."

Jonathan Gaventa, of sustainable development group E3G, said, "The package is a once in a decade moment for reforming power markets and clean energy policies. It is crucial to remember that the investments made as a result of this legislation will stay on the system for decades."

Elsewhere, Oliver Rapf, executive director of the Buildings Performance Institute Europe, said that renovation of buildings across Europe could cut energy consumption by well over a third by 2030, reduce import dependency, tackle fuel poverty and create jobs. 

"The winter package should create more transparency around the energy performance of buildings and related indicators such as comfort and wellbeing, provide access to fair and effective financing, and support the transformation of the building stock to become highly efficient, smart and decarbonised," he said.

More comment came from Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary General of the European Biomass Association, who was critical of EU's "general lack of ambition."

He called the package "a missed opportunity" to develop different renewable sources of energy, including those capable of decarbonising the heating and cooling sector.

However, Paolo Falcioni, the director-general of home appliance industry association CECED said he was happy that the European Commission had considered consumers in its energy policy plans and welcomed the 30 per cent energy efficiency target as an encouraging sign for the sector.

"[The 30 per cent binding energy efficiency target] gives our sector the certainty that it needs to keep investing in innovative energy efficient but also smart technologies that will benefit all EU consumers”.


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